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HOME > Classical Novels > Rick and Ruddy Out West > CHAPTER XIII THE DRY MINE
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 Sam Rockford turned his head to bring one ear—evidently his best—to bear on the black, tunnel-like opening in the side of the mountain. His listening attitude was imitated by the others.  
There were a few moments of tense silence, even Ruddy standing1 at “attention” in response to a lifted finger on the part of Rick. Then Uncle Tod remarked:
“I don’t hear anything but the wind.”
“Reckon that’s all it was,” said Sam, gloomily. “I thought, for a minute, I heard the water coming back through the tunnel,” he went on.
“Is that what’s the trouble?” asked Mr. Campbell, with a more ready understanding of western matters than that possessed2 by Rick or Chot.
“That’s it—yes, sir,” answered Uncle Tod, and this time his voice was almost as gloomy as that of Sam Rockford’s. “We’re up against a dry mine, and the ore is of such a nature that water is the only thing that will make it pay. A dry mine—that’s what we’re up against.”
“But why did you tackle a dry mine?” asked Mr. Campbell.
“’Twa’n’t dry when we tackled it,” sadly observed Sam. “It was as good a prospect3 as heart could wish when I spent my money and yours in it, wa’n’t it Uncle Tod?” he appealed.
“It sure was, Sam,” agreed the other.
“And then, all of a sudden, the water petered out,” went on Mr. Rockford, gloomily shaking his head. “I sent word to Jake Teeter to give you the message,” he added.
“Yes, and Jake did—in his usual mysterious way,” said Uncle Tod.
“Oh, was that the message wrapped in a cabbage leaf?” asked Rick, eagerly. “We’ve been wondering about that.”
“Yes,” said Uncle Tod. “There wasn’t any need of letting me know in that crazy, old-time Indian fashion, but Jake Teeter always was that way—he never comes right out and says anything straight. If he wanted to let you know he’d been to the post office and got a letter for you, and you happened to be in with a crowd of others, what do you reckon Jake’d do?” asked Uncle Tod.
“I haven’t the least idea,” answered Mr. Campbell, for the question seemed to be directed at him.
“Well,” went on Uncle Tod, “Jake, instead of coming right out and handing you the letter, openly, would attract your attention, somehow, by making signs. Then, when he got you out of the crowd, he’d slip you the missive as if it was something contraband4.”
“Why?” asked Mr. Campbell with a chuckle5.
“Oh, it’s just his mysterious way of doing things. He lives on the sign language—picked it up from the Indians—he camped among ’em a good many years,” explained Uncle Tod. “Why, you’d hardly believe it, but Jake, instead of telling you grub was ready, would sneak6 up to you, and cautiously show you a knife and fork sticking in an inside pocket, somewhat like he’d taken it off a hotel table without the waitress seeing him. Oh, Jake’s the limit when it comes to sending mysterious messages.”
“And did he send you the stone and the bullet in the cabbage leaf—the bullet with the word ‘come’ on it?” Rick wanted to know.
“He did,” answered Uncle Tod. “So you puzzled out the ‘come’; did you? Not easy unless you happen to hit on it, but I happen to know Jake’s queer ways. He could just as well have rung the bell and told me that Sam wanted me to hurry out here.”
“What was the stone?” asked Rick.
“Piece of ore from this mine,” answered his uncle.
“Gold?” asked Mr. Campbell quickly.
“Copper,” was the reply, “though we hope to strike the yellow boys later on.”
“Won’t now—not with the river gone back on us,” declared Gloomy Sam, as the boys nicknamed him.
“Maybe we can get Lost River to flow again,” said Uncle Tod more cheerfully. “That’s why I sent for you, Rick. You helped me a lot in my salt mining,” he added, “and I believe you’re sort of lucky to have around a digging.”
“I think you’re right, Mr. Belmont,” observed Mr. Campbell. “Rick and Chot found my lost car,” and, briefly7, he explained about the bank robbers.
“There! What’d I tell you?” cried Uncle Tod to his partner. “I said Rick was like a lucky penny to have around.”
“Um,” was all the reply Mr. Rockford made.
“But, Uncle Tod,” resumed Rick, “you went off pretty mysteriously yourself. Why was that?”
“I had good reasons,” came the answer. “There’s something queer about this mine, and there is a certain crowd of men trying either to get it away from us or make us give up the fight here and quit. As I didn’t want them to know of my movements I just sneaked8 off here quietly to join Sam, who told his friend Jake Teeter to summon me. It was Jake who stuck in the mysterious business when he didn’t need to. Though perhaps I might have left word with your mother that I was going, Rick. But I was in a hurry, and all worked up by Jake’s bullet summons, and lots of things slipped my mind.
“You see,” went on Uncle Tod, “after I bought this mine, and laid claim to it, taking in Sam Rockford as a partner, there were rumors9 that we’d be dished out of it. There were threats of claim-jumpers and things like that, and some talk about taking away our water rights.
“But as nothing like this happened we began to think it wouldn’t, and so I thought I could leave things in Sam’s hands and go east. I left word with him, however, to send me word if any rascals10 out here tried any of their tricks, though I hardly believed they would. It seems they have, but I didn’t reckon Sam would send me word in any such theatrical11 way as Jake managed it.
“I reckon Jake was going that way anyhow and he offered to let me know. Sam was glad of this chance, for Sam isn’t much on writing letters and he’s worse on sending telegrams. So he left it to Jake and Jake just naturally couldn’t resist trying some of his old Indian sign tricks. I’m sorry if it worried you.”
“Crickets! I thought it was nifty!” cried Rick.
“So did I!” agreed Chot.
“Well,” went on Uncle Tod, “I’m glad you looked at it that way. I only hope I didn’t make Schotzie nervous,” he remarked, giving Rick’s mother a pet nickname he had devised for her in some odd fashion. “You see I was sort of looking for some word from Sam, and when you boys burst in on me, when I was ............
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